We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

“There’s also the problem of, as our liberal friends would put it, power dynamics. At least when Stewart was battling the Bush administration, you could make the argument that liberalism was a minority persuasion in America. Today, the left is a political and cultural juggernaut, dominating the elected federal government, the civil service, the mainstream press, Hollywood, Big Tech, increasingly even the corporate world. It’s our new civic religion, which has turned its comedians into something like high priests, mouthing its tenets and ridiculing its apostates. All the old rules of satire — don’t punch down, afflict the comfortable — amount to a generally anti-authoritarian and iconoclastic mindset. Yet Stewart’s imitators exist only to reinforce the existing authorities while at the same time pretending they don’t have any authority at all.”

Matt Purple. He is writing in the US edition of the UK-based Spectator, so usual health warnings apply to the American misuse of the word “liberal”.

Seen at anti-lockdown protest…

Epic 🤣

Samizdata quote of the day

Conservatives? What conservatives? The Conservative Party of 2021 is Blairite ideologically, not conservative. If I wanted ruinous NetZero policies and even more state control over civil society needed to impose them, I’d vote for the Green Party. But if I’m going to get those policies even if I vote Tory, then why on earth would I vote Tory?

The educational & media establishment are now utterly dominated by the far left, with the Tories asleep at the wheel the whole time. Woke culture backed by regulation is now rapidly spreading into Big Business, with the Tories equally lackadaisical. And is there a single aspect of civil society not now regulated by the state? If the Conservatives have no interest in conserving civil society, rather than nationalising it, then you people are utterly pointless. If you were a company, you’d be prosecuted under the Trade Descriptions Act for calling yourselves conservatives.

After having only ever voted Tory all my life, the spell was broken in the final Euro elections when I voted BXP. I will not be voting for you people again.

Perry de Havilland, replying to “Now is a great time to be a Conservative.”

Samizdata quote of the day

“It has become something of a cliche, but it also happens to be true. If you want to do your bit for the planet, forget Tesla and other super-expensive electric vehicles: just carry on driving the same old gas-guzzling banger you’ve always had. As much, if not more, carbon tends to be expended producing a new car as actually driving one.”

Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph (£).

I own an S-Type Jaguar (V6, 3-litre) – one of the last ones to be built – and it drives as smooth as you like, and what makes it all the sweeter is knowing that every time I turn that big black cat’s engine on, a little bit of Greta Thunberg’s cult hopefully dies.

Samizdata quote of the day

The logistics chain that is Amazon, or Walmart, or even a Ralph’s, is one of the grand capitalist achievements in history. It used to be, in those heady days before the capitalists inserted themselves into the food supply system, that the working man spent 80% of income on food and rent. Sure, rent is a bit of a problem in certain places still. But food bills have fallen to perhaps 10% of household income.

We can check this too. Back in 1962 or so Mollie Orshansky noted that a poor family was spending about 30% or so of income on food. So, if we take a reasonable diet and triple it – roughly – then we’ve got a reasonable estimation of the poverty line. Sure, it was a back of the fag packet estimation and was meant to be used for a year or two while they all figured out something more sensible. But that is what the Official Poverty Line in the US is today, merely upgraded for inflation. And as general inflation has been significantly higher than food price inflation over those decades that average poor family, on the same inflation adjusted budget, is now spending 12 to 15%, not 30%, of their budget on food.

Supermarkets are the reason why. The people who own supermarkets charge a 1 or 2% margin on their activities. They get 2%, we get a 50% reduction in costs. It’s one of the great bargains of all time.

And this is what Guardian columnists complain about…

Tim Worstall

The King can do no wrong

George Archer-Shee died at nineteen, in what might almost be called a natural death for a young British man of his class at that time – he was killed in the First Battle of Ypres. His name is inscribed on the Menin Gate but he has no known grave.

He shared the manner of his death with thousands of others, but, quite against his own wishes, his short life before that had taken an unusual turn. At the time of his death he had been famous for six years.

It all started in 1908 when George Archer-Shee was thirteen and a cadet at the Royal Naval College, Osborne. He was accused of having stolen a five shilling postal order intended for another cadet. An elderly post office clerk said she remembered Archer-Shee as having cashed two postal orders that day, one of his own (which no one denied) and the stolen one. Archer-Shee protested his innocence to no avail; he was expelled without much ceremony.

That should have been that, a minor story of Edwardian disgrace, but his father refused to take it lying down. He engaged one of the most celebrated lawyers of the day – Sir Edward Carson, famous for many reasons, some of which are still controversial today, and determined to pursue the case to the highest court in the land. But there was a slight problem: if I have understood it right, at that time one could not sue the Crown.

Quoting a 1939 article in the Pennsylvania Law Review:

It was early recognized in England that while an action could not be brought against the King, yet as the “fountain of justice and equity” he would entertain petitions from his subjects for the redress of their wrongs; and it was established during the reign of Edward I that the subject might bring a petition of right, which, if approved by the King, would be heard in his courts. The King indicated his approval of the petition by writing on it, “Let right be done”. A petition of right, as distinguished from a petition of grace, asked “for something which the suppliant could claim as a right, if the claim were made against any one but the King”. Originally a petition of right was employed only to recover some interest in land, and there was doubt whether it would lie to recover chattels, but by the time of Henry VI it was settled that it would lie for the recovery of goods and chattels. It was not until 1874 that it was decided that the petition would lie for breach of contract. It would never lie for a tort, for the King can do no wrong.

At the time the petition of right was filed in the Archer-Shee case the law was clear that those in the service of the Crown, whether military or civil, could be dismissed at will and were without remedy by petition of right or otherwise.

Carson won in the end, as he usually did. Archer-Shee was exonerated. And the important precedent was set that the King can do wrong, and can be sued.

So far, so Whig history. The setting of that precedent is how I come to know about the case. I think I read a rather good account of it and why it mattered in Look and Learn magazine in the mid 1970s. Terence Rattigan wrote a play loosely based on the story called The Winslow Boy. It has been filmed at least twice.

But a more recent event also involving the Post Office – and the refusal of the Post Office to admit the possibility of error – and the refusal of the British State as a whole to admit the possibility of the Post Office being in error – and the blackening of the names of innocent people – made me think that we need to learn that lesson again.

Let the BBC tell the story:

Post Office scandal: What the Horizon saga is all about

A group of former sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses have seen their names cleared at the Court of Appeal after the UK’s most widespread miscarriage of justice.

It marks the latest stage of a computer scandal, and a long and complex legal battle, which could leave the Post Office with a huge compensation bill.

Between 2000 and 2014, the Post Office prosecuted 736 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses – an average of one a week – based on information from a recently installed computer system called Horizon.

Some went to prison following convictions for false accounting and theft, many were financially ruined and have described being shunned by their communities. Some have since died.

Edit: In the comments Rudolph Hucker pointed out that the doctrine driving the Post Office’s reckless prosecution of so many of its own employees bore an even closer parallel to the doctrine, supposedly overturned by the Archer-Shee case, that “the King can do no wrong” than I thought. He linked to a piece from the radio station LBC called ‘The Post Office were mendacious in the way they denied justice’ The title is a quote from Nick Wallace, a journalist who has been covering the Horizon scandal for many years.

Due to its long legacy, the Post Office has a “proximity to state power that is almost unparalleled.”

Mr Wallis continued: “It was able to use its own investigation and prosecution units to bypass the CPS and the police force to prosecute its own employees to the tune of one a week for 14 years. There were 736 successful convictions just using Horizon IT evidence.”

He told Shelagh that when the Post Office found out its prosecutions may be unsafe, “they covered it up.”

“They went out of their way to say to campaigning MPs and the Justice for the Postmasters’ Alliance that nothing was going wrong with the IT system and there was nothing wrong with their prosecution.”

They then “threw tens of millions of pounds trying to deny the subpostmasters justice,” Mr Wallis said.

“They were mendacious in the way they went about denying justice and they colluded with the Government in order to do this, because the Government is 100% shareholder of the Post Office and it has skin in this game.

DuckDuckGo going the way of Google?

Yes, ditch Google. By all means. Just be aware that:

* Stopping your use of the Google search engine is just the start. A small, very modest start. You will have a lot more work to do to “deGoogle” from the Borg—and that’s not mentioning the rest: Facebook, Twitter, etc—though that is a vast subject, way beyond the scope of this post.

* Switching to DuckDuckGo is, if not worse, at the very least not better in the context of this culture war.

And when I say “if not worse”, it’s more rhetorical mannerism than anything else.

In your quest to reject Google and the rest of the hostiles, you will have to do your homework. If you’re looking at DuckDuckGo, start with the FEC site. You will see, for instance, that for 2019-2020, all the donations from DuckDuckGo employees have gone Left.

Let that sink in. While not all of DuckDuckGo’s 124 employees have donated, not one has donated outside of the Party line.

The Dissident Frogman

How pausing the world leads to catastrophe

Well worth your time:

The ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ is getting harder

Idea that 2+2=4 is western imperialism

Fifty years ago, the BBC screened a dramatised documentary series about the fight to abolish the slave trade. Even a year of the virus limiting new series, at a time of great BBC eagerness to talk about racism, has not made them screen it again.

– I see one reason why they have not: the series displayed sleazy white slave traders and abusive white slave owners prominently, but it also showed white people eager to end the slave trade and (much worse) black people eager to continue it. It included the king of Dahomey’s threat: “if you do not allow me to sell you my slaves, their fate will be a great deal worse” (a very brief scene of the Dahomey murder spectacle lent meaning to his remark). After abolition was voted, it showed a white slave trader assuring the Dahomans, as a drug dealer might his suppliers, “It is one thing for parliament to pass a law …”, hinting at the Royal Navy’s long and hard campaign to enforce it.

– Only recently did I spot another reason why they would not want to show it again – the scene in which a corrupt old white slave trader warns his young colleague that “it’s more than your life’s worth” to doubt the ability of their slave-selling hosts to count very accurately the quantity of trade goods being handed over in exchange, and to assess their quality knowledgeably. The traders well knew that Africans counted two plus two as four, just as they did. Any trader who imagined that black ability to add diverged enough from white to enable an attempt to short-change them had learned otherwise long before the 1780s.

– The southern Confederacy thought the same. Until its death throes, it forbade enlisting a southern black as a Confederate soldier because, as one Confederate senator put it, “If blacks can make good soldiers then our whole theory of slavery is wrong.” (Perhaps also because even southern white Democrats realised that southern black desire to fight against blacks being freed was likely to be a very minority taste.) But there was one exception. Every regiment had its regimental band, which played to set the pace at the start and end of marches, used trumpets to signal commands in battle – and fought when other duties did not supervene. From its start to its end, Confederate law said any black could enlist as bandsman, with the same pay and perquisites as a white – a very rare example of formal legal equality. (Playing music requires the ability to count time. For the woke, ‘dismantling the legacy of the Confederacy’ apparently includes dismantling its realisation – shared by the Victorian composer Dvorak – that blacks often excelled in music so much as to overcome prejudice against black ability. Today, it’s ‘racist’ to value instrumental skill.)

‘Politically correct’ has meant ‘actually wrong’ ever since the first commissar explained to the first party comrade that it was neither socialist nor prudent to notice a factual error in the party line. ‘Structurally racist’ is PC’s modern companion. No longer are the woke content merely to imply (“mathematics is racist“, “punctuality is racist“, “politeness is racist“) that blacks can’t count, can’t tell the time and can only behave crudely. They’re starting to say it in words of fewer syllables.

So how does one avoid being a racist when cancel culture calls it ‘racist’ to expect any black man you meet to be able to add? First, decide which you would rather oppose: ‘structural racism’ or actual racism. If the latter, then decide whether you have the courage to do more than dislike it in the privacy of your own mind. The BBC series showed the voyage of the Zong, when the captain threw many slaves overboard to check a pandemic onboard – or was it just to convert them into insurance losses? The scene was directed to imply that some officers did not entirely like doing this – but it would not have helped anyone’s career to have refused. Only in a metaphorical sense will white intellectuals today throw overboard an off-message black colleague. Perhaps the Zong’s crew consoled themselves that, after all, it was only black people being thrown overboard. Perhaps woke whites today console themselves that, after all, as Joe Biden put it, if you don’t vote Democrat then “you ain’t black”. Besides, if

“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.” (George Orwell, 1984)

then clearly it is the duty of Critical Race Theory to ensure that is not granted.

This too shall pass. Years ago, the left decided that Stalin in Russia was “not real socialism”, nor Mugabe in Zimbabwe, nor Chavez in Venezuela – but only long after Orwell, and the year 1984, and the Soviet Union itself, had died. One day, the woke will decide that it is “not real anti-racism” to claim that black people have open minds on whether 2+2=4. Later still, they might decide it was “not real anti-racism”. But for now, just as it was once an insult to “the workers’ state” to mention how many workers Stalin killed, so we are still well into the period when asking how many black people were murdered in Ferguson or Minneapolis by the riots, or since the riots, is as ‘racist’ as classical music, mentioning the holocaust during a class discussion of racism, skiing, cheese, advising persons of colour to exercise, camping, quantum theory, acronyms, alfresco seating, grammar, beer, snow ploughs, evergreen trees, praising the fund-raising efforts of Captain Tom, individualism, interracialmarriage or questioning the existence of structural racism.

I had a very much longer list of increasingly bizarre things that exemplify structural racism – none of them repeated from my last list – but as I typed links to the structural racism of such innate features of the human condition as time and sleep, I reflected that the first was passing, and soon I should start doing the second.

Samizdata quote of the day

When University of Edinburgh students recently censured the anthropology lecturer Neil Thin, they saw the aim of studying as “to learn how to decolonise our thinking and create an inclusive society and environment”. It’s a view that more closely resembles the medieval fusion of intellectual study and religious faith than it does the critical Enlightenment stance that supplanted it.

Mary Harrington

Samizdata quote of the day

Because of course adapting the transport system to how many people want to use it isn’t the right way to go about things. Instead, the hunt is on for the money to keep the system as it is and oversupply the transport that people aren’t going to use.

Which is why politics and government is a really shitty way to run things. It’s also a lovely example of why capitalism and markets work so well. Because the one saving grace of that slightly weird system is that it kills off things no longer desired.

We have that evidence here too. The pandemic induced shock has killed a certain portion of the retail trade. So, what’s happening there? People are thrashing around trying to shrink the retail estate to fit the desire for it. Great gaping chunks of formerly retail space are being converted to other uses. John Lewis is turning retail into office space for example – that might well not be a solution that works but they are at least trying.

The demand from politics is that all must stay the same even as all changes. Nothing so conservative as a socialist, eh?

Tim Worstall

Samizdata quote of the day

“It is no surprise that a liberalism that embraced the “1619 Project’s” rewriting of the U.S.’s founding history would not stop there and try now, despite its almost invisible congressional majority, to displace the country’s originating idea of individual opportunity with a broad birth-to-death entitlement state.”

Daniel Henniger, Wall Street Journal (paywall).

Remember, for some of the hyenas of the Left, the plot of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged isn’t a warning, but an inspiration.